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James Franco, College Park Center ceremonies highlight UT Arlington Commencement Week

Friday, May 11, 2012

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Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

UPDATE: The threat of inclement weather has forced Graduation Celebration indoors tonight, Friday, May 11. The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. in College Park Center, 601 S. Pecan St.

The event is free, and no tickets are required. Free parking is available in all campus lots and the parking garage north of College Park Center at UTA Boulevard between Pecan and Center streets. Find parking lots near College Park Center at


The University of Texas at Arlington will confer a record number of degrees during Commencement Week 2012, which will be highlighted by a free, community festival featuring fireworks and remarks by award-winning actor James Franco.

Graduation Celebration begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 11, with speakers, music and food at the Levitt Pavilion in downtown Arlington, 100 W. Abram St. Graduates, their families and friends and supporters are encouraged to attend.

James Franco

James Franco

For the first time, most UT Arlington commencement ceremonies will be staged at College Park Center, the University’s new 7,000-seat special events center at Pecan and Second streets, just south of UTA Boulevard. Parking is available in the College Park garages and elsewhere on campus.

Visit for more information about academic ceremonies and other parking options.

Franco is perhaps best known for his role as Harry Osborne in the Spider-Man trilogy. The actor and author is an education advocate who returned to UCLA in the fall of 2006 at age 28 and quickly earned a bachelor’s degree in English. He then moved on to New York and enrolled in three schools: Columbia University’s MFA writing program; Brooklyn College for creative writing; and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for directing.

UT Arlington President James Spaniolo and nursing graduate student Melissa Sepulveda Tran also will give Graduation Celebration remarks. Tran will earning her master’s degree in nursing next week and plans to continue working at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas.

In the case of inclement weather, Graduation Celebration will be moved to College Park Center.

UT Arlington once again expects to confer a record number of degrees, with more than 4,400 students set to earn degrees this May. That total represents an increase of about 700 students from the number of degrees conferred in May 2011. Growth in the College of Nursing and the College of Education and Health Professions accounts for much of the increase.

The graduating class includes 3,000 undergraduates, 1,309 master’s candidates and 97 doctoral scholars. Among them:

  • Lindsey Dornberger, who plans to pursue graduate studies this fall at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science, where she will use mathematical biology to incorporate effects of the BP oil spill into an ecosystem model of the Gulf of Mexico. Dornberger earned a National Science Foundation scholarship as an undergraduate to support research on mathematical modeling and topics of biology and ecology. Her experiences included winning a state award at the Mathematical Association of America's Texas conference in 2011 for a project called "When Zombies Attack: Quarantine Dynamics of a Small Urban Population."
  • Christal Ann Simanski, who will graduate with degrees in political science and philosophy at age 20. Simanski spent the Spring 2012 semester in Rome as a U.S. Department of State intern at the Vatican. She previously participated in the International Model NATO Conference. Upon graduation, Simanski plans to move to Southern California, where she’s been accepted into the University of California San Diego’s International Relations and Pacific Studies graduate program. 
  • Charles “Eddie” Beckwith, who will graduate with a degree in aerospace engineering at age 26. Beckwith transferred to UT Arlington in 2007 on a track scholarship. He helped UT Arlington win its first Southland Conference Championship in 10 years. He has interned with company that manufactures plane parts. When he is not studying or working, he pilots airplanes.

Also of note, the UT Arlington College of Engineering will graduate four sets of twins during its May 12 commencement ceremony. The college also has another five sets of siblings participating in the graduation ceremony at College Park Center. Several plan to remain at UT Arlington for graduate studies.

Media representatives may contact UT Arlington Media Relations Office at 817-272-2761 to arrange interviews with 2012 graduates.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of nearly 33,500 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit to learn more.


The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.